This is a story about the more ways than one of Taking Directions.
It was a warm summer night many years ago, a Wednesday in fact, much like the weather we’ve been having lately, when I set out walking towards nearby Allen’s Neck Friends Meetinghouse to listen to a guest speaker who would talk about courses of action in social justice. The distance, about three miles, was more than I wanted to schlep in one go so I arranged for a friend who was also going to pick me up along the way.
The evening was beautiful as I trekked along Horseneck Road with its distinctive stone walls lining either side and pastureland slopping towards the water just beyond. Every few minutes a whiff of salt air came off of the Slocum’s River to the east which just added to the serenity and joy of the moment. After I had walked about a mile and a half it started to get dark. I began to feel grateful that I didn’t have to walk the whole three miles or so to the meetinghouse. As each car passed, I began to think that my ride should be pulling over any minute now with her old VW Rabbit to pick me up.
Several minutes passed, and sure enough, I heard a car coming up the hill behind me that sounded like it was slowing down. In a moment it pulled off to the side of the road and I ran up behind the vehicle, opened the passenger door and started to get in. Suddenly the driver started screaming, “No, don’t get in… I wanted directions–not give you a ride!” At the same instant I felt two hands pushing against my shoulder attempting to shove me back out the door before it closed. She screamed continuously, and when I turned enough to see my driver in the fading daylight, to my horror I realized that this was not Cindy, but a panic stricken VW Rabbit driving woman whom I had never met before!
I no sooner landed on the seat when I was up again, propelled by the woman’s shoving and screaming as I leaped back out the door and closed it quickly. I was just about to utter some kind of feeble apology through the open window when the poor lady hit the gas and sped out of sight.
It took me a moment to catch my breath as I stood there on the darkening roadway. My heart was pounding so fast I could feel it in my ears. I began walking again thinking, what were the odds of that happening? How was I supposed to know that she only intended to ask for directions? She had the same damn car as Cindy and pulled to the side of the road just like anyone would do when picking someone up.
I felt bad for the woman, too. Good lord, she must have been petrified to death thinking that some nut-case on a deserted country road had just hopped into her car! I also felt glad, embarrassed as I was, that I at least wouldn’t have to see her ever again! Soon my ride came along, and once again I trotted across the road and got in. Over the next few minutes before we reached our destination I told my friend Cindy what had happened just moments before. She just kept saying in astonishment as she drove, “Oh Kevin, oh Kevin…!”
Within minutes we arrived at the meetinghouse. I mingled among the crowd of people gathered to hear a presentation on actions and social justice issues among Friends. My mind, however, was still going over what had happened on the way to our meeting. The host of the evening program saw me and after exchanging pleasantries for a moment said, “Let me introduce you to our speaker.”
The presenter turned from writing on a newsprint tablet to greet me when we looked at each other and we both froze in place. Suddenly she drew both hands to her face, covering her mouth, and after a moment started to laugh with abandon. I stood there speechless at first then followed her lead. The host asked, “Oh. You two have met before?”
“We certainly have,” said Jean, our speaker, “We certainly have!” We chatted and laughed a bit longer, shared a hug and became friends from that moment on.